Report: Bulls not looking to trade Luol Deng. Why would you think that?

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Luol Deng isn’t going anywhere fast — and we don’t just mean because he’s in a walking boot right now trying to rest his Achilles (he hopes to be back Christmas Day).

We mean on the trade market.

Ever since Derrick Rose went down injured it has been the conventional wisdom that the Bulls would use now to retool the roster — not rebuild from scratch Derrick, relax, just retool — and that meant seeing what they could get for Luol Deng on the trade market.

But that is not the case; Deng is not on the market reports Brian Windhorst of ESPN.

Despite being mired in a season that has been derailed by injuries, the Chicago Bulls are determined not to trade impending free-agent forward Luol Deng, sources told ESPN.com…

Despite failing to come to terms on a contract extension before the season, the Bulls remain optimistic they will re-sign Deng next summer.

Deng is in the final year of a contract paying him $14.3 million. The two-time All-Star has averaged a career high 19.6 points per game with a good True Shooting Percentage 54.2 percent. This has been the best season of his career. Plus coach Tom Thibodeau really loves him on the defensive ends.

Still, is it really the Bulls plan to bring him back at more than $10 million a season and keep playing him in front of Taj Gibson? Would the Bulls really be willing to match what some other teams will be willing to pay Deng this summer?

More likely, the Bulls don’t want to take back long-term salary in a deal and would be more willing to play out the season with Deng and let him go rather than eat up future cap space.

Because of the salary demands and the fact that expiring deals are not the great trade chip they once were, the Bulls may not be getting offers they find attractive in the wake of the Rose injury — I’m sure teams came in hoping for a fire sale and making lowball offers. Still, you have to think they will consider this more seriously close to the deadline. This is an All-Star player and the Bulls will expect compensation commiserate with that, but you have to think they will listen.

Unless the new plan is to really bring back Deng, keep Carlos Boozer another year and try again to make a run with this core group. Not sure that’s the wise play in Chicago, but it is an option.

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

Associated Press
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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.